Higher education reforms key to growth in Phl -report

The Philippines has managed to increase access to higher education among Filipinos but there is still a need for competitive skills among its workforce which will push for economic growth, World Bank Lead Economist Emanuela di Gropello said Thursday in a higher education workshop in Mandaluyong City.

“Employers in both manufacturing and services in the East Asia and the Pacific region including the Philippines are looking for problem-solving, communications, management and other skills that will support higher productivity. Yet employer perceptions and wage skill premiums point to gaps in these skills in newly-hired professionals” Di Gropello said, presenting the highlights of a recent World Bank study titled “Putting Higher Education to Work: Skills and Research for Growth in East Asia.”

The report noted that the Philippines, together with other low- and middle-income countries in the East Asia and the Pacific region, "has started climbing the technology ladder and assimilated important technologies by becoming more open, developing infrastructure and improving its manufacturing industry." However, the country still needs to improve its capacity for innovation in order to sustain its rise in the income ladder.

It added that skills gaps are large in the service industry, export sector and technologically intensive sector which represents 'a very serious bottleneck' for innovation and productivity in the country. Employers and employees alike find these gaps to be particularly severe in creativity, leadership and problem-solving skills, the report noted.

“The evolving links between higher education systems and the business sector are becoming a major focus of policy as the role of technology in development expands. Not only do they impart education, but universities are viewed more and more as sources of industrially valuable technical skills, innovation, and entrepreneurship,” World Bank economist and co-author of the report Prateek Tandon said.

The report said in order for the Philippines to grow faster, it needs to "address skills gap by maintaining coverage and improving the quality of higher education graduates and increase research relevant to economic needs in universities or departments."

The report added that the Philippine government can use the following policy levers in addressing these priorities:

• Improve the use and allocation of public resources (more focus on STEM and equity; move from historically negotiated budgets to performance-based allocation);

• Complete the process of granting autonomy to universities (with particular focus on staffing and finance) and strengthen the role and functions of university boards;

• Improve the quality of private higher education through better information; and 

• Encourage selected university-industry linkages to improve curriculum relevance, support entrepreneurship, and help with technological upgrading (build on the positive examples of some existing university partnerships with firms in skills delivery).

For her part, CHED Chair Patricia B. Licuanan said the government is "rationalizing higher education through measures such as a moratorium on new colleges and universities, improving quality and standards by phasing out and closing substandard programs, complying with international standards, as well as developing research and development centers and world-class universities."

“CHED is also developing student financial assistance programs as well as poverty alleviation scholarships for poor but deserving students to promote greater social equity in the country,” she added.  

Meanwhile, World Bank Country Director Motoo Konishi said there is no question that Philippine universities and other tertiary institutions have been key channels for economic and social development.

“Around the region, there is an increasing recognition that higher education is critical for sustained growth. It can lift productivity and competitiveness by providing the high level skills demanded by the labor market and also by launching the kind of research needed for innovation and growth,” he added. 

Konishi said state efforts to reform higher education are important steps in the right direction, requiring continued cooperation among the government, higher education institutions, industry, researchers, civil society and development partners.

original source: www.philstar.com